POTOSI — In terms of overall importance last Friday night’s football game Six Rivers Conference between rivals Potosi and visiting Belmont was nothing compared to the halftime ceremony.
Over the course of a 10-minute halftime ceremony and the final two quarters of play, Friday’s football game between neighboring rivals was relegated to just that; a game, on a field, played for fun.
Sgt. Adam Alexander, a Potosi native who was wounded last November while serving his country in the Army Reserves in Afghanistan, was on hand for Friday night’s contest and at halftime received a hair-raising, tear-jerking, emotionally charged hero’s welcome from the overflow Potosi crowd.
Alexander, who served on a much different field in the war torn country of Afghanistan where no one “plays” for fun, but for freedom, was making his first public appearance at his alma mater since suffering the injury nine months ago.
He was introduced to the crowd and joined at midfield by his fiance Kate Nelson, parents Steve, the Potosi chief of police, and Mary Kay, a former Potosi teacher, and his brother Matthew.
The Potosi football players lined up in rows on both sides of Alexander and his family as the Potosi VFW presented the American and Wisconsin flags, while Lee Greenwood’s “Proud To Be An American” played over the loudspeakers.
When the song had finished the crowd gave Alexander a heartfelt standing ovation that lasted for several minutes.
About 25 young members of Potosi’s Vacation Bible School and their teachers presented Alexander with a check in his name for $1,315 to be donated to the United States Military’s Wounded Warrior project.
Then Potosi captains Mitch Langkamp, Tim Fritz and Jase Udelhofen presented Alexander with a Chieftain football helmet that had an American Flag decal on one side.
Each member of the Potosi team showed their respect and gratitude by shaking the hands of Alexander. Most also exchanged handshakes and hugs with his parents and fiance.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” said an emotional Alexander following the ceremony. “It’s a great honor. Ever since I was injured the community support has been amazing.
“It’s a privilege to be from Potosi. All they have done for my family; I can’t thank them enough.”
Alexander’s mother Mary Kay echoed the sentiment. “This has been a very long and difficult journey and it’s not over yet,” she said. “The community, not just Potosi but the surrounding communities as well, have done so much we are grateful for. They have allowed us to focus on the blessings not the tragedy.”
Alexander is a 2003 graduate of Potosi High School and a 2007 graduate of UW–Platteville.
He played safety and tight end for the Chieftains for three years from 2000–2002.
“We weren’t very good back then,” joked Alexander. “Definitely not like now.”
Alexander joined the Army in 2008 and was stationed in North Carolina and Oklahoma before he was sent to Afghanistan last year.
On Nov. 10 Alexander, who served in the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion of the Army Reserve, was shot in the left side of the head by a sniper and seriously injured during a firefight with insurgents in Chamkani, Afghanistan near the Pakistani border.
Alexander’s unit was assisting a group of local Afghani officials who were holding a meeting when a group of fighters, some of them wearing suicide vests, went to the Chamkani district government building where the meeting was taking place, and killing one of the suicide bombers as well as a local police officer.
Other insurgents followed by opening fire at the building leading to a two-hour gun battle in which three insurgents were killed, as well as three Afghan police.
In the firefight, the area police chief was injured, as well as three American soldiers, the most serious being Alexander.
Alexander was taken to a hospital in Germany after the shooting and later transported to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
He is now stationed with a “Warriors in Transition” unit for injured soldiers based in Rock Island, Ill.
Alexander and Nelson, a native of Medford, will be married at a small family ceremony on Sept. 29.
On Oct. 21 the Alexander family will be hosting a small Welcome Home open house dessert reception from 1-3 p.m. at Holiday Gardens in Potosi to celebrate Adam’s return home as well as the couple’s wedding.